Prep Football Playoffs: A.L. Brown 41, Weddington 20

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2011

By Josh Hoke
KANNAPOLIS ó For much of the night it seemed as if A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome was trying to force a round peg into a square hole.
Time and again standout Damien Washington would come in motion, take a handoff and gain a handful of yards. His touches were productive, but his 4.45 yards-per-carry average wasn’t that impressive on his first 22 attempts.
But ultimately the UNC-bound senior proved there was a method to Newsome’s madness, sealing a 41-20 win over Weddington in the second round of the 3AA playoffs with a 41-yard touchdown run on his final carry of the game.
ěWe felt like his speed was an advantage against them,î Newsome said. ěWe knew we were faster. We knew his speed would eventually prevail. It took until the fourth quarter that it did.î
Washington’s heroics came with about three minutes left ń the stadium’s scoreboard went haywire, forcing officials to keep the game clock on the field for the final eight minutes ń and the Wonders (12-1) facing a dogfight. Weddington quarterback Drew Podrebarac had just thrown his third touchdown of the game, cutting Brown’s advantage to 27-20.
The Wonders recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Washington gained just five yards on two carries to open the drive. However, his next attempt, which saw him outrace the defense down the right sideline, sealed Brown’s victory.
ěWe were just going to feed me the ball and hopefully we’d make a play,î Washington said of Brown’s game plan. ěWe thought we were faster and could beat them to the outside to make plays. We wanted to beat them down until they got tired.
ěI jab stepped inside and everybody came in to key on me (on the touchdown). Keeon [Johnson] sealed the edge off, and I just ran into the end zone.î
A 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brown safety Kaleel Hollis sealed the victory about a minute later. The Wonders advanced to a third-round meeting with top-seeded nemesis Charlotte Catholic, a winner over No. 4 Marvin Ridge.
Washington finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns. Tailback Kalif Phillips rushed 19 times for 87 yards but nearly half his carries came on one drive as the 1,500-yard rusher played second fiddle to his teammate.
Podrebarac kept the Warriors (7-5) within striking distance all night, completing 17-of-34 passes for 276 yards and two interceptions. After engineering a first-round upset of South Point, the 6-foot-3 senior looked poised to repeat the feat Friday, seemingly making a big play every time the Wonders threatened to blow the game open.
ěOur kids work hard,î Weddington coach Tim Carson said. ěThey are going to give everything they’ve got every time they come on the field. Ö In that opening drive of the second half, we get a score to get it back within seven. We went into the fourth quarter with a chance to win. We had that. We just didn’t get it tonight.î
Podrebarac tossed a 57-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the second half and drove the Warriors to Brown’s 28 late in the third quarter before heaving a pass that was intercepted on 4-and-23. Phillip’s second touchdown, a one yarder early in the fourth quarter, upped Brown’s lead to 27-13.
The Warriors certainly weren’t overwhelmed in the first half like so many of Brown’s opponents have been this season. The Wonders led by two touchdowns at halftime, outgaining the visitors 168-126 thanks to a balanced offensive effort that included 93 pass yards and 75 rushing yards.
This had the making of another early blowout win for the Wonders. They gained 47 yards on the game’s opening snap, when Washington took a handoff and connected with Johnson on an end-around pass. Four plays later, Washington scored on a seven-yard run to put Brown up a score less than two minutes into the game.
Robert Pinkston’s 48-yard punt return for a touchdown upped the margin to two touchdowns late in the first quarter. Ultimately, his score may have been the difference, a point that both coaches made after the game.
Still, the Warriors countered with an 80-yard scoring drive punctuated with Podrebarac’s nine-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jake Yurek early in the second quarter. It was a fitting end to a drive that saw Yurek make two miraculous first-down catches to convert a 3-and-13 and a 3-and-7 to extend the drive.
The Wonders seemed to forget about Phillips for much of the first half. He had just four touches ń not including the Weddington punt he partially blocked in the first half ó in the first 18 minutes but carried the load on Brown’s third scoring drive. He had nine carries, including a four-yard touchdown, on the drive, which put the Wonders up 20-6 at halftime.
Phillips figures to play a bigger role next week at Charlotte Catholic, which was had Brown’s number in their recent playoff battles.
ěIt comes down to exactly what it should have come down to,î Newsome said. ě… It comes down to us and Charlotte Catholic, which is what it should be out of this pod.
ěNot an uncommon opponent. It’s where we wanted to be. It’s what we thought it would come down to. Charlotte Catholic has been the thorn in Kannapolis’ side. Hopefully we can get over the hump this year.î